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A Day in the Life of a Advertising Executive

Advertising professionals combine creativity with sound business sense to market a product based on financial, sociological, and psychological research. To ensure this complicated process works smoothly (and many we surveyed mentioned that you have to be prepared when it doesn’t happen smoothly), you’ll spend a lot of time in the office (a six-day week is not unusual). Most of your time is spent brainstorming, creative blockbusting, and sifting through demographic research; less time is spent meeting with clients or pitching advertising campaigns. Fluidity of daily activity marks the life of the advertising executive who jumps from project to project, but it can’t happen at the expense of attention to detail, and it doesn’t. It takes a very disciplined person to handle both the creative end and the detail-oriented side. Advertising executives work in teams on projects, so working with others is crucial; those who are successful have the ability to add to other people’s ideas and help them grow. “You can’t have an ego in this business,” mentioned one executive, “but be aware that everybody...has one.” The need to be flexible can not be emphasized enough. As a number of large players in the industry move toward “computer-based brainstorming,”-a way in which creative ideas are kept in a fluid database without regard to account specificity-computer skills will become more valuable. Like most project-oriented careers, you can expect periods of intense activity during which you have little, if any, free time. At other times, the work load is light and mundane. A number of people interviewed said their favorite part of the profession is that “you get recognized when you have a good idea.” They also mentioned that failure is always recognized. The ability to work on a team is one of the most important skills a successful advertising executive has; however, camaraderie and a sense of community beyond any given project is not why people enter advertising. Many of the advertising surveys we received mentioned that in the industry, the word “friend” is a four-letter word.
Roadtrip Nation Interview: Lee Clow, Chairman and Chief
      Creative Director, Chiat\Day Advertising
Best Entry-Level Job: Ogilvy

Paying Your Dues

In general, an outgoing, well-spoken, well-informed person with confidence and common sense is a typical advertising candidate. However, a degree in communications, graphic design, English, psychology or any medium of expression does not hurt in the competitive rush for advertising jobs. The requirements differ depending on whether you become an advertising executive in an advertising firm or within a large manufacturing company. If you are working for a manufacturer, you should have a degree or previous work experience that relates to their product line and/or their demographic profile. Advancement is based mainly on achievement at all levels of the industry, not on academic achievement or course of study, nor on connections or professional associations (although the last two of these are growing in stature).

Present and Future

Ancient Romans advertised by placing large painted signs on walls, much like the billboards found today along any highway in the United States. Commercial progress, both individually and collectively, has been encouraged by advertising. It is not unusual for products you use in your home to have had significant advertising budgets and for your tastes or interests to have been unconsciously influenced by modern advertising. The future of advertising is expanding around you today, particularly with respect to electronic media. Smaller, more focused shops are emerging from the gargantuan players of the 1970s and 1980s (although they still are major forces) who use new technologies and response-based personalized advertising as creative marketing strategies. For example, some advertisements on the World Wide Web will analyze what services you use and are interested in, then tailor the advertisement you see according to your tastes. The future is coming to a terminal near you.

Quality of Life


Entry-level positions, mostly “assistantships,” can mean answering mail, entering computer data, returning phone calls and proofreading copy text. Responsibilities can increase, but only with persistence, luck, and the help of someone currently in a position of responsibility. The lack of complicated tasks during these first two years is actually a blessing; much is learned by observing, following, and listening to experienced advertising executives. The attrition rate is around 20 percent.


Rising young executives move into “account representative” positions, with responsibility for coordinating the variety of parts involved in a campaign, but no client contact. Salaries rise by around 50 percent-to about $30,000. The number of hours becomes deadly, and many young professionals, frustrated with the small amount of creative input allowed, long hours, and limited pay, leave the profession (25 percent). The few who have the opportunity to make creative input to a campaign see the results of their input and feel the ramifications of that responsibility.


After ten years, the average industry professional has changed jobs three times and seen about 60 percent of his or her contemporaries leave the profession, and hopefully, developed some specialty in an industry, demographic, or a medium of expression. Many have risen to “account executive” level or higher. Twenty percent more have entered other industries as consultants, managers, or executives. Pay can skyrocket-but it can also plummet to zero. The reason it can fall so dramatically is that particular to advertising is the belief that experience, while important, runs second to “freshness.” Advertising executives over the age of fifty-two are rare.